"By Jove, I think she's got it!" cries an ecstatic -- perhaps relieved -- Professor Higgins when Eliza Doolittle completes the painstaking transformation he has made of her from poor girl to well-spoken lady.
Is Professor John McCain ecstatic, or about to take personal pain, over his choice of Sarah Palin as his Veep running mate? Has she got it? Will she get it?
From Alaskan innocent abroad (who has only been abroad once, but she's seen Russia from home) she has rapidly turned from Politics great female hope into a figure of fun, lampooned on Saturday Night Live and in any number of jokes circulating by email and text.
I'm a woman who wants to see women progressing in politics, which is exactly why I launched a web site this year to engage more women in the political process. So it's good and healthy to see a woman at the heart of the presidential race. But in this age of ever growing equality it's right that Palin should be as subject to scrutiny as anyone else. As Martin Luther King would have said, she should be judged by the content of her character.
In my native country of Britain the general sentiment amongst the media is sadly, that the choice of Palin was informed not by any serious weight she adds to the ticket as a politician, but because she was a woman who might appeal to annoyed women voters in the aftermath of Hillary Clinton's failed ambitions -- and with the aim of scooping up Clinton's residual support in the crucial swing states. Palin has managed to polarize women on both sides of the British political spectrum. Deputy Prime Minister Harriet Harman caused much controversy when she openly attacked Palin's conservative views, which prompted prominent Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe to blog on my web site in Palin's defense.
Voters are never fooled by tokens. I don't think women vote like that, any more than black people vote simply because candidates are black. Just as Barack Obama needs to work hard to build a coalition of votes -- and trust -- across races, so Palin must work hard to build Republican support among women. Women are more likely to vote Democrat, so it seems to me that McCain had to choose a woman. But whether or not Palin was the right choice will be partly answered at tomorrow's vice presidential debate then fully on Nov 4th.
Palin's conservative political beliefs are known, the terms of her faith are known, her experience as a politician is known. Her many areas of ignorance are known. Is she yet a politician of the quality America needs at a time of economic crisis and terrorist threat? I truly believe that she is indeed a smart able woman but could this promotion have come too soon?
Let's not forget, if anything were to happen to McCain if he becomes president, Palin would be stepping up to the plate as the most powerful politician in the world.
So the vice presidential debates happen at the right time for America to make a judgment about Palin. After that impressive performance at the Republican National Convention -- where people of like mind were egging her on, it must be said -- all eyes will be on the TV screens to see her either flourish or wither. To flourish, like the cockney flower girl Eliza, she will need to come across as serious, compassionate, informed about the world beyond Alaska -- to be for McCain what Henry Higgins describes as "a consort battleship." To wither -- she blunders on as before much like her recent interviews with Katie Couric.
On Thursday night, once again the world will be watching Palin, all I can say is good luck My Fair Lady.